PFA claim they are not blocking footballers' wage deferrals

The Professional Footballers' Association insists it is not trying to block wage deferrals for its members amidst increasing criticism at their failure to agree to them.

UNDER FIRE: PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor

The PFA held a meeting with the Premier League, Football League (EFL) and League Manager's Association on Wednesday, after which a joint statement talked of a “constructive” day of meetings, with further discussions set to take place in the next 48 hours.

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This jarred with a backdrop which saw a number of clubs from the Premier League to non-league furloughing non-playing staff while others took pay cuts as their star players' wages remained so far untouched.

Bradford City, Huddersfield Town, Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday furloughed staff on Wednesday under a scheme whereby they are put on leave with the Government paying 80 per cent of their wages. All four Yorkshire clubs have promised to make up the shortfall in wages but others, most notably Champions League Tottenham Hotspur, have not.

On Thursday Conference North side York City closed indefinitely, furloughing all staff including players. Although they will not contribute to wages, chairman Jason MacGill has promised to pay the 80 per cent of wages if any staff are on furlough longer than the support from the Government's Job Retention Scheme, which is currently open-ended, is in place.

Some clubs have followed their own course, with Leeds United's players amongst the first to agree to defer wages to protect the jobs of lesser-paid staff at Elland Road and Thorp Arch.

Many, though, have waited in hope a consensus can be reached.

This has led to understandable outrage, much of it directed towards the PFA as the players' union and its chief executive Gordon Taylor. Julian Knight MP, the Department for Culture Media and Sport committee chair, has asked the chancellor to impose a windfall tax on any clubs that refuse to cut the salaries of players while reducing the pay of other staff.

On Thursday evening the PFA issued a 991-word statement claiming they were not a barrier to wage deferrals, and that some clubs had put their members under pressure to agree to deferrals or pay cuts at short notice.

“Contrary to some press reports the PFA has never stated that it will block all wage deferrals,” they said. “What we have sought is a structured and unified approach to ensure a fair response across the leagues.

“The players we have spoken (to) recognise that the non-playing staff are a vital part of their club and they do not want to see club staff furloughed unfairly. Any use of the Government’s support schemes without genuine financial need is detrimental to the wider society.

“We fully accept that players will have to be flexible and share the financial burden of the COVID-19 outbreak to secure the long-term future of their own club and the wider game. Our advice to players at this point reflects that. The PFA is also expecting to contribute financially to any solutions agreed.”

The statement also alleged that “we saw first-hand correspondence from multiple EFL clubs telling players they needed to immediately sign paperwork to receive March’s salary. In several instances, this was sent the day before the squads were due to be paid. Players were being asked to agree to a range of terms including furloughs, deferrals and, in some cases, pay cuts. For some, this constituted a legal change to their contract that would have standing beyond the resumption of football.

“In addition, there was no consistency from clubs with regard to wording and the terms being offered. This meant the PFA was dealing with a high number of differing cases in a short space of time.”

A meeting is planned for Friday between the Premier League clubs, Football League and various other stakeholders to discuss more wide-ranging plans for how to deal with the fallout from the pandemic.

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